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Do you feel that your internet marketing is a little hit and miss? If so, you might need a better landing page strategy to generate more qualified leads for your photography business. Discover how dedicated sales and promotion pages can really help to improve your conversion rate - turning those casual website browsers into paying clients...

2012-04-landing-page-optimization

Giving your prospects somewhere appropriate to land on your website will dramatically improve your marketing and sales results!

When new visitors and prospects discover your photography website in the search engines, do you know which pages they’re landing on, and are those the pages you actually intend them to arrive at? Furthermore, are your landing pages carefully designed, constructed, and optimized to maximize the conversion of website visitors into viable leads for your business?

In other words, do you have an organized landing page optimization strategy  for your website, aimed at getting more photography clients in front of your camera?

As a professional photographer, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the importance of your website to your business success? If I had to guess, I would say you feel it’s right up there at a 10, meaning that it’s very important. In fact, it would be foolish these days not to have a website, but if it’s treated more as a photography showcase than as a crucial element of your internet marketing plan, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table, and literally sending potential clients away!

If you’d like to know how to plug this leak, then read on to see how creating properly optimized landing pages can help…

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The Visitor Has Landed!

Before we get into the details, it’s useful to know what we’re dealing with. So what is a landing page in the context of marketing our services as professional photographers? How fascinating is your marketing to your target audience?

The term “landing page” comes from the world of internet marketing, to describe the target URL of an ad on a website, such as the banner ads we see in pay per click advertising.

If you have any experience of Google AdWords, for instance, you’ll know that each ad will take you to a specific web address when you click on it, referred to as the landing page. Ideally, the content of the target page should be consistent with the details in the ad.

The most common use for landing pages is to either sell a product or service directly, or to capture lead information, such as a name, email address and other details, though a website form.

This type of sales or lead generation landing page shouldn’t be confused with the landing pages commonly referred to in website traffic tracking, such as the Google Analytics or GetClicky software, by which they mean the page on your website at which your visitor first arrived – I prefer to call those types of landing pages “entry pages” instead, to distinguish them from true landing pages.

Is Your Sales Team Out To Lunch?

Put simply, landing pages are your online sales force.

For most professional photographers, their websites follow a similar structure. They have a home page, some gallery pages, maybe some specialty pages, an “about me” page, and usually a “contact us” page.

Depending on how the site is organized, and how well optimized it is, visitors may arrive on almost any page, but hopefully it’s one that closely matches whatever they were searching for on Google. Once there, we expect them to browse around the site, inspect the galleries, and finally head over to the “contact us” page to send us a message to let us know they’re interested in talking to us more about our photography services.

The problem with this approach is that it just doesn’t work as well as it should.

As the photographer and website owner, unless you’re a rookie, you know what you want the visitor to do, but it rarely pans out that way. Visitors just don’t behave in the exact ways we expect them to, which can be very frustrating for us as the business owner… For example, they might leave the site within seconds of arriving, or they could ignore the galleries completely, glance at the contact form but then bounce away for no apparent reason, or just click aimlessly around the site until they get bored and leave, because there was no clear instruction on what they should do next.

It seems so simple to us, doesn’t it? Come on in, see my amazing work, discover what a great person I am to work with, learn that I do just the type of photography you’re looking for, and then send me a message to let me know you’re interested, and we can talk further!

Sadly, reality is a little different to that dream scenario.

Putting it bluntly, generic “contact us” pages are just not effective enough to generate the number of leads we need in order to sustain the average photography business, especially if the website isn’t seeing large amounts of traffic in the first place, because of inadequate SEO.

What we need instead is a method of generating highly targeted leads – people who have more than an average chance of being qualified to work with us, and who could be persuaded to part with their contact information so that we can make contact with them to have a real conversation.

That’s where landing page optimization comes to the rescue!

Bribing Your Prospects Is A Good Thing!

As we move into the detail of how to create and use landing pages for your photography business, there’s an important point you should be aware of:

Before you can create an effective landing page, and use it to start generating leads, you must first develop a compelling offer as part of your lead generation strategy.

What does that mean exactly?

Basically, your landing page is going to ask the user to provide some of their personal information via a form, in order that you can then use the information to reach out to them in some way.

For example, you might follow up with them on the telephone to talk about creating family portraits, or you could send them a series of emails designed to further educate them and pique their interest in having their children photographed. If they’re a wedding prospect, you might need to get in touch with them to arrange a studio visit, and to make sure you have their wedding date open, or that your pricing fits within their financial plan.

Whatever the purpose of your lead generation might be, there’s a good chance that the user will feel some resistance at supplying you with the information you want. In that case, they need some kind of offer or compelling incentive to encourage them to take action now by completing the form.

An honest bribe is what we need here!

Offering some kind of valuable reward will increase the conversion rate of your landing pages significantly, so I urge you to be as creative and as generous as you can be in coming up with a suitable “carrot“, if you like, to get that all-important sign-up.

Such an incentive could be a short eBook or a white paper on a subject that relates well to the purpose of the landing page. For example, if you’re trying to capture wedding booking leads, you could offer them a guide on the most important things to ask their wedding photographer, many of which most brides don’t know to ask.

When you hone and perfect your landing pages, by having an easily-accessible and irresistible offer, you’ll convert a much higher percentage of your website visitors into qualified sales leads, drastically improving your bottom line.

Walk This Way Please!

Funneling your site visitors onto specific landing pages (either immediately when they arrive through targeted ads and links, or by directing them via links elsewhere on your site) also makes it clear what they have to do to get the offer.

The lead generation form on your landing page is the bucket that sits at the bottom of your website sales funnel, with all your site visitors entering at the top. Your website’s job is to direct your traffic through the funnel, leading them to the conversion form, and then to persuade them to fill it out.

However, the sales funnel really has multiple entry points – basically, any page on your website could be considered as being at the top of the funnel..

To get around this, the marketing copy on every page of your website should be carefully aimed at pointing your traffic in the direction of your lead generating landing page, through links and persuasive calls to action.

This is why the traditional method of simply placing links to the “contact us” page doesn’t work very well in most cases – without a strong call to action to make someone want to go there, the lead loses any sense of purpose or direction and disappears back into cyberspace.

What Can You Use A Landing Page For?

There are basically three categories of landing page:

  • Informational landing pages
  • The promotional landing page
  • Pure lead generation landing pages

The Informational Landing Page

These are where you simply want to provide details about a specific product or service that you offer, perhaps with a form where the visitor can request more information from you, without that necessarily leading to a telephone or email conversation. For example, you might have a main page about your baby photography services, with a form for you to send them a short eBook that answers some of the most common concerns moms might have about taking their newborn to a photographer. This essentially creates a “warm” lead for you, possibly someone you might want to add to an email newsletter list that you can then educate further through email marketing.

The Promotional Landing Page

Like most photographers, you probably run the occasional special offer or seasonal promotion, or perhaps you want to organize a really cool and exciting event at your studio.

Having a dedicated sign-up, promotion, or sales page for these types of things is crucial, and can be a great source of new leads for your business.

Failing to properly promote these offers by only announcing them on a blog or a Facebook page, expecting people to call or email for information is one of the biggest mistakes that I see photographers making every day, which means they’re missing out in a big way! In those cases, it seems that the photographer is relying on the innate attractiveness of the offer or promotion to sell itself, which we know is not going to happen in the vast majority of cases.

The Pure Lead Generation Landing Page

The third group of landing page is for lead generation only, with no immediate sale in mind. I say “immediate” because, of course, we’re still aiming for a return on our marketing investment at some point further down the road. An example of this could be a simple email list sign-up page, where you ask your visitors to sign up for your email newsletter.

Another instance might be in the case of a model search, if you’re looking for people to act as models to build up a portfolio of new work.

Or, perhaps you’re thinking of moving into a new niche and would like to gauge the level of local interest. You can do that by having people “raise their hand” to let you know if it’s something that might appeal to them.

Adaptability Is A Key Factor

As you can see, there are different ways to use landing pages for your website. Of course, the professional photographer who is able to quickly add these pages to their site will have a distinct advantage over everyone else. This is where the WordPress framework, for example, allows photographers to add well-optimized landing pages to their site with relative ease. On the other hand, those relying on Flash-based templates, or third-party web developers, might not have the ability to be quite so proactive, and the construction of landing pages in those cases might require more planning and time to execute.

Scalpels At The Ready! Dissecting A Landing Page

So what should a good landing page look like and what’s the best format to follow?

The creation of landing pages has become both an art and a science in the marketing world, and there are definitely proven landing page optimization methods to make them as effective as possible.

To give you an idea of the most important elements, I’ve included an example of the typical style of landing page that I use here on this website, which I’ve found to work quite well:

An example of a typical website landing page

An example of a typical website landing page

If you want to see this page in close-up you can visit it by Clicking Here.

The main features I want to draw your attention to are:

  • The headline
  • The sub-headings
  • Concise marketing copy
  • Sign-up form
  • Clear call-to-action
  • Social proof
  • Lack of distracting navigation

The Main Headline

Just as with any other form of written marketing for your business, the headline is the most important element. Like the headline of a newspaper article, this is designed to attract and keep the reader’s attention, encouraging them to keep reading.

In the case of a landing page like this, we have something a little different, in that there are two identical headlines – one in the body of the page, and the other used as the title for the form. This is intentional, and helps to reinforce the purpose of the page, as well as to reiterate the reason why they’re going to complete the form.

However, it’s important to note that, for photography SEO purposes, even though these two headings are the same, they do not both have “h1” HTML tags associated with them – only the heading in the main copy is specified as the “h1” heading for the page.

The Sub-Headings

The sub-heading is designed to complement and enhance the message contained in the main heading, rather like the sub-title of a book. It’s purpose is simply to draw the reader further into the copy, and to reinforce the reason they’re here.

Concise Marketing Copy

Landing pages have only one express purpose – to capture the information you want to get from them in the sign-up form. Anything that distracts the user from that goal is only going to serve to reduce the effectiveness of the page, so your marketing copy should be clear, concise, and as persuasive as possible.

This is where you can make good use of bullet points to convey the benefits or features of what you’re offering without being too verbose.

Getting this part right is going to be a matter of testing to see what works for you and your target audience, so good analytics and traffic data is important in your research of the page’s performance over time.

Sign-Up Form

The sign-up form itself should be clearly positioned near the top of the page, which is why I chose to use a two-column display for this type of page.

The reason for the form is noted in the headline, and I recommend using a photo of yourself or something closely related to your offer here too in order to personalize the page.

The information you ask from the user should be the absolute minimum you need. In most cases, a first name and email address should be sufficient. If you do require other information, such as a planned wedding date, or contact telephone number, then tell them why you need that information in terms of how giving it to you benefits them.

In my experience, I’ve found that reducing the number of input fields on these forms has a profound positive impact on the conversion rate.

Also, unless you start to suffer a lot of inconvenience from spammers, I would avoid the use of a Captcha, or other spam-reduction tool. They can be useful in certain cases, but they can also be just another barrier to prevent people from taking the action you want them to.

The text of the sign-up button is also very important in helping with conversions. For example, avoid the standard “Submit” button – it just doesn’t sound very persuasive at all. Instead make the text of the button connect with what you’re offering. For example, if they’re signing up for a free eBook, the button can say something like, “Send Me My Free eBook“.

Clear Call-To-Action

Even though you might think the purpose of your landing page is more than obvious, don’t assume that your site visitor will know what you want them to do.

A clear and simple call to action, which tells them exactly what they need to do is still essential, and can be placed at the bottom of the marketing copy.

Social Proof

Unless this is a secret offer, or something that will only be available for a very short time, your site visitors are going to be much more likely to do what you want if they can see some social proof from other users.

So don’t forget to include the usual social networking sharing buttons, such as the Facebook “like” button, tweets, and LinkedIn shares.

Lack Of Distracting Navigation

Finally, there’s something very important missing from the landing page, that has been left out deliberately!

That’s the site navigation and any other links.

The reason for this is simple – having expended a lot of effort to funnel your site visitor to the place where you want them to be, don’t then provide any distraction that could potentially send them off elsewhere on an unwanted tangent.

This is not intended to “trap” them on the landing page, but it does stop them from clicking away to another part of the site where you’ll have to start the process of persuasion all over again!

Remember: You’re competing for your prospects’ attention – the more you can do prevent that attention from leaking away the better.

Landing Page SEO

Before we move on, I’d like to talk for a little bit about some of the SEO considerations with landing pages.

Firstly, assuming that you want to attract as many potential leads as possible to your landing pages, optimizing them for the search engines is going to be an important step.

As with any other page on your site, there should be just a single level-one header, which is identified by the “h1” HTML tag. Usually, this will also be the title of the page, as defined by the “title” tags in the header section of the HTML code.

Because these pages tend to be relatively short in nature, you should concentrate on optimizing for a small number of keyword phrases, say around 3 or 5. Those keywords and phrases should appear in the title of the page, the meta description, headings, marketing copy, and also in the URLs, titles and captions of any images or videos you use on the page.

However, beware of stuffing the keywords into your page – any attempt to game the search engines in this way on such a small page will be more than obvious to the search engine robots, and your page could be eliminated from the search index as a result. The rule of thumb is that you should write for the human visitor first, use recognized variations of your keywords, and aim to have your main keywords mentioned only in ways that seem natural.

A good test is to read your copy aloud – if it sounds natural to you, without any awkward-sounding repetition, then you’re more than likely okay.

Links to your page from external sites, and internally, are also desirable, as is social proof, which I mentioned in the previous section. The search engines, led of course by Google, are taking social proof in the form of likes, shares etc. far more seriously when it comes to weighting the popularity of web pages.

Integrating Landing Pages Into Your Marketing

Finally, let’s talk a little about how to integrate your landing pages into your marketing process.

We’ve mentioned the sign-up form, but that’s not quite the end of it, as we need to know what happens after the user clicks the button to submit their information.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I do it, but your method could vary depending on how much programming you want to do.

When they click the submit button, they’re directed to a post processor script that does several important tasks:

First, it validates the information that was entered to make sure they completed the required fields correctly.

Next, if everything checks out okay, I send them an automated “thank you” email. I usually include the information they provided on the form so that they can check it themselves to make sure it’s correct. I also use this opportunity to send myself an email with the same information in it, so that I have a record of their entry.

If you’re using any kind of goal-tracking in your analytics software, this is a good point to define the conversion “goal“.

Depending on how sophisticated or advanced you want to get, you can also update a database on your server with the information, or call an API (application programming interface) to add the person as a contact on your email list or to an autoresponder sequence.

Finally, once all these tasks have been completed, they’re sent to a “thank-you” page on the website where you can let them know the information was successfully received, and what they can expect to happen next, etc.

From there, it’s down to you to contact them personally, follow up with them, educate them through email marketing etc.

QR Codes And Landing Pages

A key sector of your target market, which many people are ignoring at the moment, is the mobile market. The number of users surfing the internet on mobile devices is already high, but is set to explode in the coming years. For that reason, we should also cater to members of our target audience who could reach us via their phones and tablets etc.

Many marketers have adopted the now-popular QR code as a means of easily capturing people’s attention while on the go:

QR codes are a means to attract the attention of your target audience who are on the go, and direct them to your desired landing page...

QR codes are a means to attract the attention of your target audience who are on the go, and direct them to your desired landing page…

Sadly, spammers, hackers and virus-writers have also hopped on this bandwagon to distribute their own messages, but putting that aside, we can still make use of this technology to capture leads.

When a user scans your QR code somewhere, they can be directed straight to a landing page, which is great. However, it’s going to become increasingly more important to make sure we have mobile-friendly versions of our landing pages as well as the standard web versions.

At the time of writing, I’m just as guilty as the next person in this regard, as I’ve yet to find a suitable mobile plugin for the site that works well in tandem with the membership administration software, but I hope you get the idea that the easier you can make it for your mobile audience to connect with you the better off you’ll be.

Putting This Into Action

I hope you’ve found this information useful, and that it’s started you thinking about creating some specific and targeted landing pages for your own photography website.

The key thing, though, is to take some kind of action – today – to get started on this, even if it’s just to research how you could implement all this for yourself. I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s not how much you know, but how much you do, that really counts!

Of course, I can’t hope to cover everything in this short post, so if you think I missed something out, or you have a question about anything I talked about here, please leave a comment.

As ever, I appreciate you taking the time to be here today, and your thoughts and suggestions are always welcome!