Every time I read a "best practices" guide to optimizing landing pages, I cringe. I know full well the limitations and the biases inherent in what the teacher is about to dispel to the pupil. Even worse, I know full well the pupil is likely to accept the teachings as gospel, and run off to begin implementation. Honestly, I don't blame them- implementation led by a methodology will inevitably outperform pure talent or intuition. However, the assumption in that last statement is that the methodology is based upon a framework that has been well thought out and proven successful. How many methodologies do you know that live up to that assumption?
Given this, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw "10 Landing Page Optimization Tactics" from Larry Chase arrive in my inbox. In my experience Larry's stuff is fantastic, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, even with my low expectations given the topic. You know what I discovered? His tactics were really just principles, and in them were some excellent words of wisdom, as always. Experiment with registration forms, and test multiple landing pages (see a theme here?) were just two of his stratagems. To his credit, he also added *sample* tactics (following through on his chosen title), but more as clarification and inspiration than as implementation orders.
It's not all a love fest here this morning however, Larry did present what I'd consider to be the cardinal sin of Landing Page Optimization- keep them in the funnel. Don't offer escape routes, as he called it. Hmm, escape routes. I don't know about you, but I'm hard pressed to think of a positive mental image involving escape routes. Burning building. Bank Robbery. Painful (and long) first date? Why do we assume eliminating the "escape route" is sufficient for visitors continuing the process? Doesn't the X button at the upper right corner of the browser offer the ultimate escape route?
Larry's not the first person to suggest this of course, and he won't be the last. It comes from thinking about where you drop the visitor who clicks through your email or PPC ad as a page, rather than an event within a scenario. You want one principle to improve your landing pages?- Don't do that. Don't assume you can stuff your visitors into a linear funnel, and because there's no way out, gravity will pull them through. Stop waiting for your cat to bark. The online world is one without gravity. In the online world, visitors control their own momentum.