When you've been in this business for a while, you simply expect people to understand the value of landing pages. A meeting with a client the other day really brought this to life for me because it's hard for people to get away from the home page mentality of website development.
What is a landing page? It's a place that you land after you click on a PPC ad (there's value in SEO, but we'll focus). It's the place that tells your prospect more about the ad they clicked on and encourages them to contact you or buy your product or service. The page is different than your home page where you are trying to give the visitor the ability to find whatever they are looking for. This includes products, services, management info, press, contact info and so on.
Landing pages are different. You paid for the click. You have every right to limit their choices. Using your home page as your landing page offers too many choices and only delays a decision. Or worse, people forget about why they are there in the first place. Searchers have ADD. Either give them what they are looking for or go elsewhere.
Make sure the landing page is consistent with your ad. It seems intuitive but many do not do that. They forget to repeat or build on the messages of the ad. For example, if your ad says “2 easy steps to sign up. Hassle free” in the ad. The landing page should clearly show step 1 and step 2. It should have a box with benefits that would highlight why it is hassle free. We've seen dramatic improvements in conversion rates (rate at which you click turns into a lead or sale) when the landing page is aligned appropriately. Moreover, it is said that it improves your quality score with Google. That means you pay less or get higher position on your ad.
Keep it simple. Do not clutter your landing page with all kinds of information. Less is more. There's no need to confuse people.
Don't forget about the big red or green button. You know, the one that tells people to contact you or buy now. Study after study shows that this works. So use it and make sure it is front and center. This was a key area of discussion with a client.
Place a form on your landing page. Try to make it simple and unobtrusive. It allows you to track the success of the campaign, have a lead to contact and have another prospect in your database for newsletters, updates or special offers.
Use references to increase your credibility. This could be customer testimonials, parter quotes, logos of the Better Business Bureau, etc. Anything that makes that decision easier, especially if you in a very competitive market.
Use human faces, especially for services. Nothing sells and increases comfort more than the happy face enjoying the benefit of your product or service. Notice how Apple uses the gyrating dancing men and women to push the iPod. We have seen dramatic improvements with this. So much so, that we put people on our front page.
For easier tracking, use confirmation or thank you pages to complete the contact process.
Try to use text over text images. It makes it easier to make modifications, especially if you do a ton of pages to tune your campaign.
This goes without saying but keep with the look and feel of your brand. You customers will see you again. Don't confuse them into missing you.
Finally, test and retest. Never stop testing. Use split testing or even better Taguchi testing (see Andreas' slides on the beta of Google's MultiVariate Testing software). You would be amazed how many times the page that you considered as the worst, turned out to be the best in conversions.
Thanks to Soumya for helping with her comments!