Rand over at SEOMoz announced a cool project - an open landing page optimization contest, verified by third party conversion tracking. This is cool enough to get even me to participate, except for one fatal flaw: a good landing page sells, and to sell, you have to know your product.
The product in this case is Premium Membership. I have no clue what is behind the Premium Membership at SEOMoz So how can I sell it? Oh sure I can make a great landing page anyway, but I shouldn’t be able to compete with the premium members in a conversion contest. If I could beat them without any knowledge of the inside, what would that say about their skillz? What would it say about landing page optimization? That it’s all about page design? Phooey.
A good landing page has to not just sell, but satisfy and convince. Consider yourself the visitor. You came to this page already predisposed with an opinion and an expectation. The job of the landing page is to match those aspects of your beliefs, allay your concerns, and satisfy your hopes. The copy uses information to do that. In the case of a landing page encouraging SEOMoz visitors to sign up for premium membership, many of the common beliefs involved are well known. What is the value expected to come to me in exchange for paying? What will I immediately gain right away that will make my purchase a no brainer? What guarantees do I have that I am not getting scammed, that I have no risk? How sure can I be that if I do get scammed, I am in a safe place and can get out without damage or big hassles? Answer these business questions, and I can design a landing page strategy and guide a designer in building it. Absent this sort of analysis, all you can do is play with page design or hype with promotional copy. That should not be enough to win a landing page optimization competition.
Oddly, the very same things I would need to build Rand a killer landing page and win this contest, are the very same things I have not seen myself while watching SEOMoz in the past. I bet the absence of those details is what has been keeping me and the masses from signing on, separate from any landing page. But to Rand, that is the reason for the contest. See the problem?
Rand, you don’t need a killer landing page to get premium members. You need killer value.
Seriously, absent any obvious problems, the landing page for premium conversion will only work if it clearly demonstrates value on the spot. If the premium membership actually has value like that, we need to present it on the landing page. Identify the 3 most likely incoming demeanors and show them what they seek is inside. Use examples. Use testimonials from inside. Etc etc, and add technology to exploit any available a-priori knowledge (can you spell referrer?). BUT, if there really isn’t such value in a premium membership to SEOMoz, then what is the “killer landing page” trying to accomplish? See the problem?
Let me clarify this: I have complete expectation that there is adequate content within that premium SEOmoz site to enable someone to make a killer landing page that converts. SEOmoz isn’t popular for no reason. However, I can’t see it, and unless you’re a premium subscriber, neither do you. So how could you win this contest? When I went to read the page that has the details for the contest, where I expected to find the guidelines that would enable a strategy for the conversion page (what can be offered, for example) I got hit with a member’s only login screen. Even the contest promotion failed to convert. See the problem?
I don’t believe that Rand views this as merely a page design exercise, because it’s presented in the context of copywriting and accompanied by a report that proposes sales conversion tactics including things like modified pricing structures. You know, strategic issues that drive landing page design. Something is missing.
A free, limited trial would achieve your goal, Rand. Plain and simple. If you’ve got value, show it. Having tasted it, we’d hate to lose it and we’d pony up the monthly fee to secure access. If you can’t do that, then, well, why not? It’s just a hunch, but I bet the answer to that question will tell you much more than Offermatica’s conversion reports.