Landing Page Optimization: Identifying friction to increase conversion and win a Nobel Prize


The 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides for their research trying to explain why unemployment remains so high in the U.S. and other advanced economies. More specifically, they won for their analysis of markets with search frictions – any factors that keep markets from operating efficiently.

Being the amateur economist I am (CV: 11th grade with Mr. Lamar, I’ve read several issues of The Economist), I was elated to hear about this selection. Theoretical economics is sometimes too, well, theoretical. Supply A meets Demand B and they live happily ever after.

With the notable exception of Dan Ariely, I often wonder if these economists live in the real world or just a magical Shangri-la where everyone always behaves rationally, and mere trifles like food and energy aren’t important aspects in the average family budget (I believe this Eden is called Princeton).

The world I live in doesn’t work that way. Which gets us to your landing page…

But what do economic studies in unemployment have to do with my landing page?

Your landing page is not an economic utopia where Supply A and Demand B neatly meet to deliver all the conversions you should rationality achieve, based on the true value of your product or service. Like Messrs. Diamond, Mortensen and Pissarides, MarketingExperiments research has found that one of the major impediments to conversion on a Web page is friction.

Think about it for a second. How many Web pages have you arrived at that you just couldn’t figure out what you were supposed to do and bounced? Or perhaps you started off on the merry trek into their funnel but just didn’t have the patience to wade through each and every step or complete every form field?

Hold on, Mr. Fancy-Pants Economist, my site’s Web pages are ridiculously simple

Yeah, we get that a lot. And here’s why. If you’re a dedicated online marketer, you have likely put a lot of time and effort into every aspect of your website – landing pages, conversion paths, every single radio button and form field.

But, your potential customer has not. Mr. Short-Attention Span, let’s call him, is willing to invest mere seconds (sometimes more, sometimes less…motivation plays a huge factor as you can see in the MarketingExperiments conversion heuristic referenced earlier) in trying to figure out your conversion process. And, unlike you, he hasn’t invested a majority of his day understanding the minutia of your site. This might be his first-time visit (and his last if you don’t clean up your act, buddy).

And there’s the rub. You can’t reduce friction if you don’t even realize it’s there. As noted psychologist (and current senator), Stuart Smalley, is fond of saying, “denial ain’t just a river in Egypt!”

So how can I identify friction to get more sales and leads?

In our Landing Page Optimization course, we use a simple heuristic to help teach marketers how to identify (and manage) friction:

In our course, we dedicate an entire 55-slide session to friction, so I can’t possibly walk you through every consideration in a simple blog post. However, what I think you might find most helpful is a quick look at some design elements that can cause friction.

Examples of design elements that can cause length-oriented friction:

  • Length of pages
  • Field Number
  • Field Layout
  • Steps in a process

Examples of design elements that can cause difficulty-oriented friction:

  • Eye-path
  • Options Selection
  • Button Design
  • Organization
  • Flash Video

Review your conversion process with these elements in mind. Better yet, have someone that isn’t familiar with your website – a secretary, your grandmother, the mailman – review your landing pages with these elements in mind. When you look at your site with fresh eyes and the proper focus, you might be shocked at what you (and Nana) discover.

Related resources

Friction: Are you rubbing customers the wrong way?

Internet Marketing: Landing page optimization for beginners

Landing Page Optimization on-demand training and certification course

The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal, Q3 2010

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