Creating Beautiful and Effective Landing Pages With WordPress
Third-party providers like Lead Pages and UnBounce offer a no-tech option for countless landing and sales page configurations. But you’re a WordPress savvy developer, you should be able to guide your clients through a landing page solution.
Today we’re going to look at resources, themes, and plugins you can use to create functional, professional looking, self-hosted sales and squeeze pages.
It’s probably safe to bet that the overwhelming majority of WordPress developer and design clients are in business. And the entire point of creating a website presence for any business is conversion, that is, turning visitors into buyers.
Your customers want to see conversion. Think of a landing page as the quintessence of the conversion-driven website. They’re a marketing tool and they exist solely for one reason: to get your visitor to complete one simple task: whether that’s opt-in to an email list, set a sales appointment, or purchase a membership/product/service.
Landing pages are used to sell apps, ebooks, and make coaching appointments. They can be ridiculously effective when done well, just ask President Obama. But if cobbled together as an afterthought, are almost useless.
In marketing, landing pages are a different kind of creature than coming soon pages (although a great coming soon page should include some kind of lead capture).
Landing pages are usually designed separately from the rest of the website and may not include menus, sidebars, footers, or any (or many) external links. Traffic is directed to the landing page from specific sources—Facebook ads, LinkedIn, Google AdWords, a sidebar link, etc. specific to the campaign.
The term landing page is a generic umbrella term that includes sales and squeeze pages, but all these pages are basically created the same way, and this format is proven to work. While only about half of marketers are creating a new landing page for each new campaign, according to Hubspot, websites that are using more than 30 landing pages are also generating 7 times the leads as those with less than 10.
In case you’re still unconvinced, this handy infographic might just be the magic bullet.
Elements of a Good Landing Page
Getting it is only half the battle though, right? Now you’ve got to put it together.
This is where the experts and stats are in agreement on landing page fundamentals:
- Make it simple to increase conversion – no header, menu, and few, if any, external links. You don’t want your visitors to make a decision on anything expect whether to act
- High quality images and video converts higher so the ability to embed media is key
- Clean, uncluttered, and plenty of white space seems to work better
- Oh, and if you can make it easy for your clients to do A/B testing, you’ll be making everyone’s life (and sales!) better
In case you need a better visual to wrap your head around, UnBounce created a wireframe of a typical landing page for their free ecourse you can find right here.
Technically speaking, you’ll need to be able to embed optin forms, buy now buttons, appointment scheduling, or shopping cart links. Once the page is put together, it’s out of your hands, and up to the copywriter or client to run with it and make it a success.
Your Development Options
You’ve got a range of options to make landing pages with WordPress. Many themes and frameworks are now being built with a landing page template. For example, Genesis by StudioPress has a landing page template, as does Divi, which I reviewed here.
If your theme doesn’t come with it’s own landing page template you can:
- DIY a blank template to create landing pages with your current theme
- Use a free or premium landing page creator plugin
- Use a free or premium landing page theme
- Take advantage of 3rd party integration with WordPress through a site like Lead Pages or Unbounce
If you’re using a blank page template within your theme, or a theme that comes with a landing page template, you may want to consider a page-builder plugin, or make sure your plugins support shortcodes you can drop into your landing pages for optin forms, videos, etc.
If you’re going to code it yourself, you might try making a page template that doesn’t have a menu, sidebar, or footer. You can follow this handy guide to get started, but if you’re going to strip the header and footer, you’ll also need to create corresponding header-landing.php and footer-landing.php files, and pass those names in the header and footer functions.
Here’s a quick and dirty example below that I threw together using TwentyThirteen.
Default template on the left, and stripped-out landing page template on the right. I left the sidebar in to make use of an optin widget, but depending on your theme, you might want to remove that as well.
Of course, you can get as elaborate as you’d like with this and include a custom stylesheet for your landing pages as well.
If you’re going to go the DIY route, and you’re handing this off to a client, you may want to have a page-builder installed they can use to drop the necessary elements into.
I’d go into this further, but we already have a great overview of ten different drag and drop page builders.
Landing Page Plugins and Themes
Back in February, Joe reviewed three free landing page plugins for the blog—WP Lead Plus Free, Parallax Gravity, Impact Template Editor, and Ultimate Landing Page. Rather than rehash those, I’m going to put a few more free landing page plugins options you can test out there, and talk about some premium plugins.
For the purposes of this article, I’ve focused on plugins created specifically for landing pages (and sales and lead generation, rather than coming soon pages).
The Landing Page is an ultralight, minimalist theme that “features” no header, footer, or sidebar. Why bother, right?
Actually, for the purpose it was designed for, it works pretty well. There are a few basic theme options to add social media buttons to the bottom, but otherwise, all the magic happens (or should happen) in the page builder.
Ultimate Landing Page comes with one very, very basic template and no ability to customize it further.
The paid upgrade unlocks another nine templates and some additional features. It was really easy to use though, however basic the results. That said, if given the choice between this and a blank theme template plus a page builder, I’d recommend the latter to my clients.
WP Landing Pages is another super basic landing page generator – this one with seemingly less functionality.
It offers a selection of basic templates and allows you to customize the background images and text.
Beyond that, you really don’t have much control over the landing pages you create.
Landing Page Builder is another “free” plugin you’ll find in the WP repository. But be forewarned: the free version is essentially useless. Testing it out was promising, but you can’t take advantage of any of the functionality you’d want for a live landing page without the $45/month subscription. *cough*notfree*cough*
WordPress Landing Pages by Inbound Now promises everything you need to run successful landing page campaigns, including a visual page builder, A/B split testing, and monitor conversation rates.
The plugin offers a selection of free templates to get you started, and additional integrations and templates are available to purchase.
Just a word of warning: It would be fabulous if this plugin worked, but after fiddling with it for a few hours, I gave up.
OptimizePress is a WordPress solution that comes with over 30 great looking and fully responsive themes for landing, sales, registration pages and more.
Using the visual editor, you can drop in common landing page elements like optin forms, Facebook comments, arrows, badges, etc. It integrates with most mailing list providers and also gives you the ability to create secure member portals.
The downside? Pricing starts at $97 and you can only use it on sites you own and run yourself, and you have to purchase the basic package to even get access to the developer licensing, which start at $249.
Thrive Content Builder comes with a suite of slick looking landing page template sets.
It’s a page builder and visual editor, essentially, but the concept of the template sets, which would take a visitor through the entire process of opting in and confirming their subscription is a such smart idea.
Developer license starts at $199/year.
Authority Pro, by contrast to the two above, looks and feels a little dated, but if you want to see what the quintessential long-form sales page looks like, go no further than their own landing page.
Again, it’s a drag and drop page builder that was created for the marketing-minded individual to use. It looks like pricing starts at $97, but I got lost in the sales funnel before I could find out more about the terms of the license.
Just Landed is a responsive theme/page builder that includes all the elements you’d need to create converting sales and landing pages.
Create as many landing pages as you’d like for different products or services, using pre-made landing blocks like pricing tables, testimonials, and more.
At $58, it’s the most economical canned solution, but unless you’re running a theme-switcher, you’ll need to maintain a separate WordPress installation if you want your main website to look and behave differently.
Beyond getting the pages created, a complete landing page solution would involve:
- A way to do thorough A/B testing on all the pages
- Newsletter/opt-in integration
- Ecommerce integration, membership, or ecourse registration
- Tighter control over SEO optimization
You might also want to look into a more elegant media player solution for video or audio embeds, depending on your clients plan on creating their landing pages.
Love them or hate them, the landing page trend in online marketing doesn’t appear to be going away. Think about this, 68% of B2B businesses are using landing pages. Clearly there’s a market for landing page development. In fact, there are web developers out there who devote their careers to creating landing pages for clients.
Given the options available, if you’re not willing to create the pages yourself, it’s worth investing in a decent landing page platform when you consider that the fate of any business hinges on the sales.
What do you use for landing pages? Let us know in the comments below.