Secrets to Optimizing Landing Pages: Exclusive Interview with Earnworthy's Nicholas Scalice

1 min read
Optimizing Landing Pages with Earnworthy's Nicholas Scalice

Today, Mentorcam is bringing you an exclusive interview with Earnworthy’s Nicholas Scalice that’s all about landing page optimization. Mentorcam’s Head of Operations (and co-founder of Wag!) Jason Meltzer sits down with Nicholas for a conversation absolutely packed with valuable insights for growth marketers.

Throughout the course of their conversation, Jason and Nicholas cover:

See the full interview here.

Who is Nicholas Scalice?

Nicholas Scalice started his career as a marketer in 2009. In 2015, inspired by inbound marketing leaders like HubSpot, he started his own marketing agency specializing in growth marketing. He focuses mainly on the technical aspects of landing page design — conversion optimization, marketing automation, marketing operations, A/B testing, etc. — but he’s also passionate about educating people on how they can use growth marketing to take their businesses to the next level.

Nicholas works one-on-one with founders and other marketers through Mentorcam. If you’d like to dig into any of his tips in this interview in more detail, or get tailored insights specific to your business, you can book a call with him.

Without further ado, let’s dive into Nicholas’s words of wisdom for growth marketers about landing page optimization.

Part 1: Landing Page Optimization, Defined

First, Jason and Nicholas discuss the essential components of an optimized landing page, including the seven key questions every landing page needs to answer for the customer.

What are the key elements that make up a successful landing page?

This is one of my favorite questions and it's something that we could literally spend an entire day on. I've realized, just having worked on thousands of landing pages at this point, that there are really seven questions that a landing page needs to answer — and I go through this on Mentorcam calls whenever I'm giving landing page feedback.

With a landing page, you need to answer the questions that the visitor has. That's the overall idea. Some are subconscious questions; some are conscious questions. 

  1. The first question is: do I quickly understand the big idea? I call that the clarity question. In an instant, [the landing page needs to] tell the visitor: this is what this page is about. This is what's being offered.
  2. The second question is: can it specifically help me? I call that the relevance question because if a page is not relevant to that person who's visiting, then it shouldn't even exist really, right? 
  3. The third question is the affinity question: do I like it? That's another subconscious split-second decision that we make. You can just see, in an instant, if someone is going to like that page or not. That has a lot to do with the branding and the design. 
  4. The fourth question is: has it helped others? I call this the influence question, and this is all about showcasing social proof and results. 
  5. The fifth question is: do I trust it? That's the trust question, obviously, and that dives into security, and trust factors, and trust seals, and all that good stuff. 
  6. The sixth question, I call the advantage question: is there something special about it? This one's really important, and it's easy to overlook, but you need to always try to pull out what is unique about your product or service and highlight that on your landing page. If you don't do that, people are comparing you against so many different options and you're just going to be a commodity. You have to showcase that unique advantage. 
  7. The final question is the action question, which is, can I easily take action now? I call this the action question, because if we do [everything else] right and we don't help people take action, we haven't really accomplished much.

In a nutshell, those are the seven questions that, in my opinion, every landing page should try to answer.

Part 2: Using Landing Page Optimization to Improve Conversion Rate (CRO)

Next, Jason and Nicholas move on to some of the ways that landing page optimization translates to better conversion rates, including the distinct roles that offers and CTAs play in earning conversions.

How important is landing page design for conversion rates?

This is another very common question I get asked. Should I focus more on the design or the copy? In my opinion, they're both important, but the copy, and the actual messaging on the page, is more important. I think if we were all presented with a page where it was just literally black text on a white background, but it had a compelling offer, it had a great call to action, a great headline that really captivated us, it felt relevant — we would probably take action. We would take that next step. 

But if we were to reverse that — let's say we had the most beautiful page that's designed by world-class designers, but the copy was robotic or artificial and there was really no offer and it didn't really resonate with us — we wouldn't know what to do, or we wouldn't care what to do. So in my opinion, while design is very important, the copy is more important. I always recommend starting with the copy first before going into the design.

What role does the CTA play in a landing page?

I think it's first important to differentiate between a CTA and an offer: 

The offer is, in my opinion, the most important thing on a landing page. What is that page offering? 

The CTA is the vehicle through which you can obtain the offer. The CTA is usually going to be either a button or a form. If it's an e-commerce site, it's the opportunity to add something to the cart and then go through that checkout process. 

A lot of the pages I work with are in the lead generation category. So it's usually going to be a button that then directs people to a form, and then they're going to put in their information and get something — whether it's a free download, or a consultation, or some type of quiz that they're going to get the results from.

When it comes to the CTA, you always want to keep in mind that it's all about the visitor. You have to put something in that CTA that's going to be enticing to them. If we're trying to write button copy, for instance (which would be considered micro-copy on a landing page), you have to put thought into it. You don't want it to just say “submit” or “learn more” or “get now” or “request.” You want it to try to answer that request or that burning desire that the visitor has. 

One little trick I like to use is to continue the sentence of: I want… I want to… right? [For example], I want to get my free consultation. So in that case, maybe the perfect CTA button copy would be “get my free consultation,” because it talks about that end result that the visitor wants to achieve.

Part 3: How to Optimize a Landing Page

Next, Jason and Nicholas get into the meat of what kinds of steps marketers and startup founders should be taking to optimize their landing pages, such as crafting headlines and value propositions, making good use of heat maps and data, and tailoring landing pages to resonate with specific target audiences. They also go over some landing page examples, including examples of good and bad CTAs.

What is your process for optimizing a landing page?

At my agency, we have a 20-question survey that we walk through with our clients. Those questions are actually based on that seven question framework that I just covered, because the idea is that we need to get all the right information to be able to answer those seven questions for the visitor. 

One of the first things we want to dig into during our landing page optimization process is understanding who the audience is that's going to be visiting the page. That’s going to help us answer the clarity question and the relevance question, especially. 

Then, we're going to dig into some other questions that'll help us answer things like: what specific behavior do we want people to take on this page? This is a very common mistake I see where people do a great job with the copy and the messaging, but the actual offer on the page is very weak. You've probably seen pages where the call to action is something like “submit,” or it's “learn more,” or it's “subscribe to our newsletter.” And it's just this very weak, vague offer. 

Some people may say, well, that's a call to action. Is that an offer? But behind the scenes, that's an offer. You're offering either more information, or some chance to connect, or some chance to follow up with someone. But if it's not specific and it doesn't showcase the value of what's in it for that visitor, they're probably not going to take action.

So that's another thing we walk through during that process — we figure out what are the behaviors we want to encourage and how do we tie the right offer to it. Then, we go into the messaging component — how do we craft a compelling headline and subheading, call to actions, micro-copy, etc. 

At the end is really where we're doing design and then some usability testing. We're building out the framework or the skeleton of the page; we're doing the mobile optimization; we're doing all the analytics and tracking setups. All that happens towards the end.

Should you have multiple CTAs?

You definitely want to have one offer. Now, you can sometimes have secondary offers and secondary CTAs. A common example of that is if you're in any type of service industry, it's not uncommon to have a phone number CTA, and have a form fill CTA, and then have maybe even a live chat or a messenger type CTA. You have the trifecta of all of them working towards one goal, which is to get in contact with that lead or that prospect.

So in that case, even though it seems like there are three different CTAs, they're really focused on the same offer. But, even in that situation, you can still optimize towards one of them. All the time, we're trying to figure out: should we optimize towards a phone call, or a form submission, or a live chat? You can tweak and you can pull certain levers to try to get more form submissions and less phone calls and vice versa. 

But, as a general rule, you want to have one main CTA. You don't want to have: “learn more,” and “check out my blog,” and “buy now,” and “read about us,” and “follow us on social,” and “join our newsletter” — that's going to be very confusing.

How important is the headline on a landing page?

The headline is very important. Everything is based around answering those seven questions. The headline is what answers the clarity question — that split second decision where the visitor is going to look at that page and decide: is it for me? Is it not? What is this? Am I in the right place? You have to [answer those questions] quickly. 

Most people don't scroll. That's probably the biggest [learning curve] that I had [to get through] when I was getting started — just how I was putting so much effort below the fold in a landing page, and then you realize, especially when people are on mobile devices, they're making that decision above the fold in most cases, meaning they're not scrolling. So that headline has to pull them in.

Think of the headline as pulling people in, getting them interested, making sure they understand they're in the right place. Then, the sub headline or the sub header is going to build on that and be a little more specific.

How do you use heat maps and analytics to optimize landing pages?

I definitely recommend using a combination of both quantitative and qualitative data. Just to clarify what that is for anyone who's not familiar with those terms: 

Quantitative data is the numbers. That's going to be the stuff you'd get from Google Analytics. 

Qualitative data is not so much the number quantifiable stuff, but it's the stuff like heat maps — or more importantly, session recording data, where you can actually see how someone is moving around the page. 

In my opinion, you need to have both [quantitative and qualitative data]. The quantitative stuff is going to tell you what's happening. These are the hard numbers — this is what we need to improve; this is where there's a bottleneck. But to really understand why it's happening, you have to look at the qualitative data. 

I like to use a free tool called Microsoft Clarity. It's relatively new. A lot of people don't really know about it, but think of it as the qualitative counterpart to Google Analytics. It's a really powerful tool. I love using the session recordings because you can see how people are navigating from page to page, what they're clicking on, what they're getting stuck on. 

You can also look at click maps and heat maps. In my opinion, heat maps are kind of over-used and overplayed. I don't get as much value out of a heat map as I do from just watching five minutes worth of session recording data and seeing how people are moving around the page.

What are some best practices for creating effective CTAs and pop-ups?

Pop-ups can be very annoying. Whenever I mention pop-ups to a client, usually the reaction is: “I hate those things. I don't want to put that on my site. It's just going to annoy people.” But there's a reason why you see them on so many sites. They work. 

There are certainly bad use cases of pop-ups. A bad use case would be if it pops up too quickly or pops up too many times, or it pops up with the same information that I can see on the underlying page. Instead, what you should try to do with a pop-up is create some type of secondary offer that's going to pop up at a delay. 

A good way to determine exactly when it should pop up is to look in Google Analytics — or whatever analytics tool you're using — at what the average time on page or time on site is, and then use the 50% mark. 

Let's say that you have an average time on page of a minute. [In that case], maybe the pop-up should pop up in 30 seconds. That way it's 50% of the average time on page. Then, you can figure out if you need to increase it or decrease it. 

Try to use an offer that complements whatever was on the underlying page, but [make it a] secondary offer. A good example would be if you're selling insurance, the main page might be to get a quote, but then the pop-up could be some type of downloadable resource checklist — the 10 things I need to know before I choose an insurance policy, etc. This helps the visitor get to that same goal of getting the right policy, but it does it through a different mechanism.

What tools do you use to create and test CTAs and pop-ups?

We build a lot of landing pages in a platform called Unbounce, a very popular landing page platform that's been around since 2009. They actually have pop-ups built into the platform, so we use those most often. 

If I needed to use pop-ups outside of an Unbounce environment, I like Convert Flow. I think they're doing some really cool stuff over there, especially with e-commerce. And a lot of the email platforms these days have their own pop-ups that are built in that you can deploy. If you're in the WordPress ecosystem, a lot of sites are built on Elementor these days, and Elementor has some really powerful pop-ups that a lot of people don't really [fully utilize].

How do you tailor landing pages to specific target audiences?

It really comes down to understanding the audience. And this is, again, a whole ‘nother thing that we could spend a whole day on — just doing audience research, trying to figure out exactly who it is that we want to present this offer to. Because that's what we're doing as marketers: we're presenting an offer; we're trying to help someone overcome some type of challenge; we're trying to take them from a before state to an after state. 

So you really have to get into the psychology of: what is that before state? What are those problems? What does that after state look like? How is our offer going to be the bridge that's going to get them there? 

In a nutshell, that's what we do as growth marketers, and this is something that I see so many people skip over; they just go right into the design or right into the copy because they think they know their audience, but they really don't. 

What I would recommend doing is just talking to people in your target audience. If you haven't launched yet, just talk to your potential customers. You’ve got to get that feedback. There are so many frameworks out there, and there are so many mentors on Mentorcam that can help you create your target audience, or your persona, or your customer avatar, etc. 

But you have to start with [your audience]. Then, from there, you can work out all the additional steps, like: what is the messaging? What is the offer? But it all starts from understanding who that target audience is.

How do you create a strong value proposition on a landing page?

I have a whole ‘nother framework for this. I call it the Hammer Offer Framework. There's a few specific tips that I like to include in a value proposition or in an offer: 

  1. Highlight the differences. What are you doing that's different? 
  2. Address specific outcomes. What are the specific things that your product or service is doing that can help someone achieve that before-to-after transition? 
  3. Minimize risk. This is really important, especially with e-commerce. That's why we see so many free returns, free shipping, money back guarantees, etc. You want to reduce the risk as much as possible. 
  4. Make things easy to understand. We want to reduce complexity, reduce cognitive load, reduce friction, etc. Make things simple and don't use buzzwords. 
  5. Encourage immediate action. Your value proposition [may be] great, but if it's not combined with some type of encouragement, or sense of urgency, or sense of scarcity, [then it won’t do any good]. As long as it's authentic — I'm not a fan of doing artificial scarcity or artificial urgency. I see it all the time; [for example], it's an ebook and there's only 10 copies left. Come on, it's an ebook. You could have unlimited copies if you wanted. You want to have some type of encouragement of immediate action, but you want to do it in an authentic way.
  6. Require minimal effort [from the customer] to obtain whatever it is. This is why I'm an advocate of using multi-step funnels to try to get people into that process little by little so that you don't have a form that has 20 questions on it. [It’s better to] break it up because that's going to get people to ease into that process.

Part 4: Tracking Landing Page Results

Lastly, Jason and Nicholas cover how you can track the success of your landing page optimization efforts, including how to define success for a landing page and what kinds of metrics are most important.

How do you know if a landing page is successful?

You have to know up front: how do you define success? Is it more form submissions, or is it higher quality leads, or is it more sales of a certain product, or is it a higher total order value (if we're talking about e-commerce)? 

There's a whole bunch of different numbers we could cover. But some that I really like to look at are the conversion rate — and there are different types of conversion rates at different points of the funnel. You could have a multi-step landing page funnel with a conversion rate for each step, or you can have that overall conversion rate. You have to track all of that. Then there's the cost per action or the cost per lead

Then, you have the customer acquisition cost, because — this is another situation that happens all the time — you can optimize a page to convert really well, you can get that conversion rate way, way up, but then you look at the actual value of a customer (the customer lifetime value, or how much it actually costs to acquire that customer when you look at it in a blended sense through the entire funnel), and it might not be the right customer for you. It might not be the highest value customer, or you might be losing money even though they're converting on the landing page. Maybe you're spending 10 times more on the acquisition side of things if you're running paid ads.

You have to look at the entire funnel, and you have to understand the conversion rate, the cost per action, the customer acquisition cost, the customer lifetime value, etc. And then, even after you acquire the customer, you have to have some metric to measure the qualitative sense of whether a customer is happy or not. A common metric for this is net promoter score, which is a very good indicator of if they like [the product or service] and [if they’re] going to refer you to their friends.

How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in landing page optimization (like ChatGPT)?

I'm glad you mentioned ChatGPT. I love it. I think marketers who are not using it need to use it — not to artificially replace what they were going to say, but just to ask questions. I use it for inspiration, and for ideas, and just to sort of talk to different types of experts that you might not [otherwise] have access to.

Something that's helped me personally stay up-to-date on things is that I actually started a newsletter on the topic of growth marketing. This forces me to constantly be looking at and bookmarking news articles, tools, tips, and tricks [because] every week I have to review everything and send out my newsletter. Starting some type of blog newsletter or social media content where you are posting the content is going to force you (or encourage you) to just look at more content and learn. 

The final thing I would recommend: I really like going back to the basics and reading books because I think with books, you're going to get more isolated content that the author really put a lot of thought into. One of my favorite books is Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. If you want to learn more about writing compelling headlines and that type of thing, it's an amazing book. This Is Marketing by Seth Godin is another book I recommend all the time.

What are Some of the Best Ways to Connect and Collaborate with Other Marketers?

You know, that's one thing I love about Mentorcam. I love being able to connect with other marketers and other business owners, and hearing what problems they're working on, and shooting ideas back and forth. I think that's an invaluable thing that we all need to do. 

In terms of just collaborating with people, another thing that I really recommend is joining Facebook groups. It's really the last reason why I'm on Facebook anymore is for groups. There are some really good discussions going on there. Or if you're not on Facebook, there's a lot of Slack communities that are just as good. 

But it's essential to always be bouncing ideas off of each other and joining a community — at least one. Thankfully there's a platform like MentorCam where you can do that and you can jump in and talk to people.

Final Thoughts?

Don't get overwhelmed. I know we covered so much; we got pretty technical for some of it. At the end of the day, for anyone who's either in marketing, or in a marketing role, or trying to improve the marketing for your product or service or for your clients: just go back to the basics. Focus on those fundamental elements. Remember a lot of what we do is psychology; it's just trying to help people. 

That's another reason why I really like Seth Godin's book, This Is Marketing, because it reminds us that we're really just trying to help people here. We're not trying to manipulate people artificially; we're not trying to hack our way to the top — we're trying to help people solve problems. If you can do that, and you deliver value first, then usually it's going to work out in your favor.

Don’t forget to check out Nicholas Scalice’s newsletter, Growth Marketing Weekly, for more tips and tricks like these. You can also find him on social media @nicholasthemarketer or book a consultation with him on Mentorcam.

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