One of the most common questions I see on affiliate marketing forums is the classic “Should I link directly to an offer or build a landing page?”
I can count on one hand the number of campaigns I’ve made money from without the help of a landing page. Direct linking may work for some. But it’s never outperformed any of my campaigns where I’ve pre-sold the offer ahead. Now that doesn’t mean you should take my words for gospel. The equation is altered by your choice of niche, traffic source, keyword targets, and probably what you ate for breakfast this morning.
But that’s besides the point of this post. I think if you’re going to use a landing page, the least you can do is make it a good one. I’ve seen some jawdroppingly bad landing pages over the years. So bad they could only have been designed by the Escobar Status dude (baby please come back).
If you haven’t checked it out already, StackThatMoney had a very useful post this week offering seven conversion boosting scripts. Some of these are highly relevant to the landing pages you should be creating. But while they will all make a difference, they don’t quite add the missing ingredients which most marketers tend to overlook – the language you use to persuade.
Our actual landing page copy is one of the most important links in the affiliate chain, and it’s often the last to be split-tested. We pay so much attention to our faltering CTRs and our faintly different banners that we often forget to split test this decisive persuasion tool. That’s probably because it’s a lot easier to find a new dating stock image than it is to learn how to write better copy.
The best landing pages act on the message of the ad that preceded them and channel the focus towards your end goal. Presumably to get the user to sign up to some crappy service he’d be embarrassed to tell his friends about. If you’re wondering why your landing page isn’t making a difference on your bottom line, it’s usually because the sales funnel is leaking relevance.
If your ad doesn’t gel with the benefits you’re listing in your landing page, the user is going to click away.
If the offer doesn’t deliver the benefits you’ve described in your landing page, the EPC is going to be low.
I look at dating ads on Plentyoffish and often see headlines like “Our Women Need More Tall Smokers, Join Now!” And I think to myself, okay, maybe I missed the release of Mate 1’s latest “Free Weekend Pass For Nicotineheads” landing page. But I haven’t, so is this really a sophisticated marketing ploy? No, it’s just a cheap trick to increase CTR based on user attributes. It may enjoy short lived success while the CTR is strong, but inevitably it falls apart because the correlation is wafer thin and built on cones of sand.
If you’re going to exploit user attributes for your ads, you have to choose attributes that actually have some relevance. Otherwise you’ll lose way too many eyeballs in the jump from ad to landing page. Getting a user to click from your landing page through to the merchant is actually very easy. But only if you’ve pre-qualified them with ads that tie in to the benefits you’re about to sell.
At the heart of your campaign, it doesn’t matter how great your landing page is as a standalone advertisement. It has to tie in with your previous ads in order to be effective, or the user will simply leave disenchanted.
I’ve regularly touted the benefits of using “YES language” on a landing page. This is a copywriting technique where you ask as many rhetorical questions as you can, always the with the intention of getting a resounding “YES!” from your reader. A headline like “Do You Want To Get Ripped In Time For Summer?” is more of an attention grabber than simply stating “New Formula Promises Abs Within Months”. There’s another language tool at work there, which I will come to later. It involves getting the reader to picture himself in various states. If you can control the states, you can control his emotion. And if you can steer his emotion in to a buying state of mind, congratulations, you’re a better writer than most affiliate marketers out there.
Use concise language and always write for the subordinate classes. Just because you have a degree in English literature, that’s no license to alienate 70% of your target market by typing like a pompous prick with his head up his arse. Short snappy sentences are the way to go. Something I like to remind myself in any of my copywriting is that ambiguity is never a good trait when you’re trying to sell something. It’s the mark of a copywriter who isn’t truly invested in a product or it’s benefits.
There’s a beaten dead horse lurking around affiliate marketing blogs that says you should always sell the benefits, not the features, of whatever you’re promoting.
Yes, you should. But understand that there’s a difference between selling the benefits and simply listing the benefits hoping one of them fills a “tick if applicable” box in the consumer’s head. I spy on many affiliate landing pages and it really shines through how bland and uninspiring the writing can be.
“Sell the benefits, not the features,” simply isn’t good enough. You need to sell those benefits in such a way that the reader has no choice but to imagine them sweeping through his life and making a change for the better. Reeling off the A-Z of “Things My Product Can Do For You” is technically correct in the marketing sense. But it’s just not effective, in my opinion, unless at some point those benefits flick a switch from “this could be me”, to “this WILL be me if I act now” in the reader’s head.
How do you do that?
You either have the natural talent, or you hire somebody else who does. It goes back to what I was saying in my last post about outsourcing. If you want the best, you better be the best…or be prepared to pay for the best.
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