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Anatomy of a Novel-Sized Landing Page (Part 1)

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So "novel" might be stretching it a bit, but I'm sure you've run across one of these types of landing pages in your online travels. You know the kind: A big, bulky, laden-with-stuff Web page that's the "Part 2" to a short email promotion or paid-search ad you've just clicked on... a page that, when printed, may turn into 16... 18... even 20 pages or more.

Let's be clear: Not all landing pages (aka splash or jump pages) need to be long. If you're marketing a free or very inexpensive product or service, or if you've driven prospective buyers to the page with a detailed email or other type of lengthy, benefits-rich promotion, the page can be more or less an order form, with a few substantiating claims thrown in.

The type of longer landing page I'm talking about, though, is not long just for the sake of being long. Rather, it needs to tell a big story, so it needs plenty of room to do so.

However, filling it with fluff isn't going to sell your product or service. There is a method to the madness behind the creation of one of these pages. And it's a pretty systematic, organized, and detailed method at that.

My goal for this article (and the one that follows it) is to outline the most vital components to a knockout, sales-generating machine of a landing page, as well as to outline how to incorporate those components successfully using specific copywriting and design techniques.


Let's start our look at the anatomy of such a landing page with the fundamentals, the bare-bones necessities that should be in every response-driven landing page.

The "Bones": The Shell That Holds It All Together

Most marketers who promote online have this part down pat. A catchy headline (well, maybe not always so catchy—we'll talk about that later), some benefit-driven bullet points, a few subheads to break up the copy, and a few calls to action strewn throughout.

But there's a method to all this. Think of your landing page as a template. The last thing you want to do is to haphazardly throw things on the page.

If you look at some of the longstanding landing-page controls out there, they really do all follow a similar pattern or structure. And, in a nutshell, that pattern usually shakes out something like this as you read through the page:

  • Top: Headline with supporting text or subhead
  • Middle: Promotional copy, broken up by subheads, bullets, images, and testimonials
  • Bottom: Calls to action with links

Looks simple, doesn't it? Actually, this part really is. And outlining can be very effective here when you first set out to develop this page. The tricky part comes when you're filling in the blanks. That's where a good theme can help, also known here as the nervous system.

The "Nervous System": The Constant Subtle (and Not-so-Subtle) Messages That Run Throughout

The main theme refers to the overarching message that you want to communicate to the prospect who lands on your page. A good theme should carry and evoke emotions throughout. Sometimes the main headline states the theme quite clearly.

One health-focused landing page that caught my attention recently contained a headline that shouted out, "You don't want to fool around with your hormones..." and then went on to talk about all of the things that can go wrong when your hormones are out of whack—along with a solution (a natural product) that could fix those things.

This main theme promoted concern (even a bit of fear), curiosity (which made you want to read further), and—most important—by the end it created a true need for the product.

Sure, "fear" and "curiosity" are two themes. So is "opportunity." But be careful when you use the opportunity message, because it'll fall on deaf ears during uncertain times.

For example, just the other day I came across a landing page targeting investors with a "Beat the market 3-to-1 and make millions in 3 years" opportunistic theme. Uh... hello? Have you seen what the market has been doing lately? That type of theme is not going to resonate with most investors these days. The majority of them feel beaten down, nervous as all get-out about the future, and unsure where to turn.

A better theme for these folks might be to throw that gloom-and-doom right back in their faces with something like, "It's a graveyard out there, but there IS still a small pocket of on-the-rise stocks to be had..." with the main theme throughout being fear with a cautious dose of opportunity thrown in. In other words, the big message that the prospect should be left with is "If you're very careful, and you know these secrets, there are still investments you can make money with."

So keep in mind that you really need to know where your prospect's head is at when you develop your page. And also note that the theme alone doesn't make the sale. Your copy should reflect that theme, but it should also focus on pulling at the heartstrings—at least a little. Remember, most people buy on emotion... and that goes for just about any product or service you can think of. (Yes, even with B2B.) That leads right to our next section.

The "Heart": Tugging at the Emotions

This is where good copy comes in. It can help drive people to read through the page, and it can entrench that emotional theme more firmly in their minds and hearts.

To effectively capture those hearts, you need to grab their attention with that certain something—and fast.

If you know your audience, you know why they may need what you're selling. For example, if you're marketing to a group of nonprofit organizations that desperately need federal grants to survive, you may want to start with a "Your grant funds are at risk" type of message. You're stating a potential risk or challenge that your target market might have right now. The more that people can relate to that, the more they will want to continue reading your message.

Again, it's about carrying that message throughout. Fan the flames, so to speak.

But the heart also wants a solution, so wrap that solution around those emotions you've just created. In our example, the solution may be a 90-minute audio conference detailing all of the many complicated strategies required to keep getting those federal-grant funds. (Hint: If this were your landing page, you'd want to hone in on the amount of boring and difficult paperwork and phone calls and letters involved. Bring forth that emotion of "Ugh. This is sheer and utter drudgery for me to figure all of this out by myself.")

You'd also want to focus on the "expert" behind the audio conference—an expert on the topic who has helped thousands of nonprofits get and keep their funds for years and years. Evoke the feeling of "Ahhh... relief. Someone who 'gets it' and who will explain it all to me in 90 minutes."

* * *

You're probably getting a picture of what a top-notch landing page looks like. We still have a lot more to cover, so I'll save some of the more specific tips for Part 2, when we'll also talk about the "brain," or how to use logic to give credibility to all of those emotions you've just created. We'll also review some specific copy and layout points you'll need to make your landing page flow.


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Kim MacPherson is founder and chief copywriter for Inbox Interactive (www.inboxinteractive.com), one of the first agencies dedicated solely to email marketing. Reach her via kim@inboxinteractive.com.

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