How we increased landing page conversion from 5% to 55%
Our product, Sidelines (http://sidelinesapp.com) lets sports fans share and discuss opinions, photos, articles and videos about their favorite teams. At launch, we started out with fairly low landing page conversion (roughly 5%). We found some great, zero-cost ways of driving users to our landing page, but most of those users were leaving almost immediately without signing up. Our landing page had become our biggest hurdle for user acquisition.
So, we spent a couple of weeks extensively A/B testing our landing page, and in the process, were able to increase our landing page conversion from 5% to 55%, without any decreases in engagement. We learned some very interesting lessons about landing page layout and messaging, as well as the behavior of first time visitors, and feel that these lessons would be useful for other consumer sites.
1. Photos are better than screenshots
We started out with a landing page which showed 3 screenshots of our product, and one sentence below each screenshot about a benefit of using Sidelines. This converted very poorly, even though we had gotten good feedback from folks we asked about the screenshots themslves. So, we decided to significantly simplify the landing page. We threw up a version that just had a random picture from the 2012 Super Bowl, without any screenshots, and a couple sentences about the product (see below).
With the Super Bowl picture version, conversion went up to 17%, compared to 5% for the screenshots. Lesson learned: with certain types free consumer apps, simplicity and an eye-catching photo works much better than clearly trying to explain your product with screenshots.
There are a few reasons for this:
First, If looking at a screenshot of your product instantly causes a customer to “get” what the product is all about, then screenshots are a great addition to a landing page. An example of such a product is mint.com. However, if you have a product like ours or Twitter, a screenshot of the product doesn’t immediately clarify the purpose of the product.
Second, the photo we used is an action shot from a very memorable game, and in that sense is highly relevant for a sports-related product like ours. Photos can be immensely powerful because they bring up emotional reactions in people (It’s no surprise that photos are the core of Facebook and the reason why a service like Instagram grew so quickly). In many cases, especially for a free product, you are better off invoking an emotional response from a user instead of trying to appeal to his rational side by deeply conveying your value proposition in great detail.
Side note: When using very simple messaging on the landing page without screenshots, it becomes extremely important to guide the user through a great first-run experience that explains the product and how to get the most out of it once he once he signs up on the landing page.
2. Large Background Photos Convert Really Well
We then threw up a version similar to what we have right now, with a large background picture that covered the entire screen, and we further condensed our messaging to a tagline and a single sentence explanation. This ended up converting better than anything else we had tried until that point, and we now had conversion at around 25%.
3. Inciting curiosity works better than clarity
You’ll notice that our tagline, “Follow Sports Together” is deliberately vague. After trying all sorts of options, we found that semi-vague messaging on a landing page is more powerful than clear and detailed messaging. Our messaging makes people who come to our landing page curious about Sidelines, and that gets them to sign up. Another product that does this really well is Identified (see below) and it’s clearly working for them, given their user growth.
For certain kinds of free consumer products, curiosity can be a powerful motivator for a user to try a product. Once a user tries your product, you can use a host of engagement tactics to turn that user into an active engaged user. For instance, we’ve had success with optimizing our sign up flow, the first run user experience, our welcome email, email newsletter and email/Facebook notifications.
4. Focus on the value proposition for brand new users, not advanced users
Initially, we only called out the sharing aspects of Sidelines in our landing page messaging and conversion was around 25%. When we added the words “Follow your favorite teams”, conversion immediately jumped up to about 40%. This is because most users of user-generated content apps, start out as consumers of information/content, and only later, after deriving value from the product as a consumer, become producers of content. By focusing on the consumer side of the value proposition for brand new users, we were able to convert them much better. Even Twitter primarily calls out the consumer value proposition on its landing page, and doesn’t talk about sharing in its messaging: “Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about.”
5. Allowing users to sign up with their email increases FB/Twitter sign-ups
Initially, we only allowed users to sign up via Facebook and Twitter. Later, we added email/password as an option. Unexpectedly, that increased the number of people signing up via Facebook and Twitter by 7%.
There are two reasons for this. First, many users today are skeptical of spam from products that only offer Facebook and Twitter login options. Adding an email signup option generates more trust for your product among users. Second, it often gets users to focus on the choice of signing up (“Should I sign up with one of my social accounts or with my email?”), rather than on signing up (“Should I sign up?”), and the minute we get the user to focus on the second question, the user already assumes that he is signing up.
6. Figure out and optimize for the target demographics that convert the best
When we started Sidelines, we were dead sure that our product would resonate more with men than women (I mean, heck, it’s all about sports). However, it turns out we were wrong about this in terms of landing page conversion. We recently threw some Facebook ad traffic at our landing page with different combinations of messaging and target demographics.
Our highest conversion (by FAR) was women (ages 26-40) with the messaging “Share photos, videos, articles and opinions about your favorite teams”. What’s more, these women also ended up inviting 35% more friends to Sidelines than men. Finally, men who received email invites from women converted about twice as well as men who received email invites from other men.
It was clear that women in the 26-40 age-group really loved to share. However, we still wanted to ensure the messaging appealed to the vast majority of our new users who start off as pure content consumers. The compromise we found was to start the messaging off with the consumer value prop and then include the sharing aspect: “Follow your favorite teams, join the hottest discussions and share photos, videos and articles with other fans.” This seems to have hit the sweet spot and our landing page conversion now stands at 55%.
By no means are we done experimenting, either with our landing page or anything else. There are 2 experiments we are planning to try next for the landing page. First, we’re going to try changing the copy to emphasize discussions. When we talked to our most engaged users, they said the biggest reason they come back to Sidelines regularly is for the insightful, meaningful discussions they can participate in. Second, we may try showcasing some of the cool content on Sidelines on the landing page so users get a better idea of what the site is about.
Landing Page Conversion versus Engagement
We want to mention that over the course of the weeks that we carried out these experiments, engagement and activity on Sidelines almost doubled. It’s important to keep an eye on your engagement metrics as you iterate with landing page conversion, since getting the wrong users in the door may increase landing page conversion at the expense of engagement. While we don’t believe our landing page improvements had a direct effect on longer-term engagement, we did a lot of work on other fronts to increase engagement (email notifications, FB notifications, newsletter, open graph optimization etc).
Disclaimer: Most of these lessons apply primarily to free, consumer sites/apps, and our target customers and yours are different. The real lesson here is to experiment and measure results, and you will likely find, like we did, that your intuition is wrong on many fronts.
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